Secret Operations of World War II, Alexander Stilwell

Secret Operations of World War II, Alexander Stilwell

The clandestine battle fought across occupied countries by the SOE, OSS, Maquis, partisans and Resistance fighters

I must admit I don’t think this book starts very well (but it does improve!). The United Kingdom carried out a vast array of secret operations during the Second World War, so attempting to squeeze them into a short chapter was always going to be difficult, and the approach taken here comes across as being rather scattergun, with tiny snippets about massive topics, and a fairly random feel.

However once we get onto other countries the book’s value rather increases. For countries such as Poland the emphasis is on the local forces of resistance, rather than the impact of outside forces, so we learn about the surprisingly wide array of different resistance groups that were formed in most countries, with a mix of Communist groups and groups loyal to pre-war governments or to exiled leaders emerging in most areas (most famously Greece, where the war ended with a civil war between the two main resistance groups). However even in countries without such a bitter ideological divide there were often several groups – Holland ended up with four main groups etc. 

There is an interesting contrast between the Italian and German chapters. The Italian chapter focuses on the anti-Fascist resistance that developed later in the war, and doesn’t cover any secret operations carried out under Mussolini. In contrast the German chapter focuses on Nazi secret operations and not the efforts of the admittedly small German resistance, giving one chapter looking at the other side of the fence.

Overall this is a useful introduction to this topic, giving the reader a good idea of how widespread and how varied the resistance to German occupation was across Europe, especially when we move away from the more familiar stories of SOE and start to examine the many less familiar organisations. 

1 - United Kingdom
2 - United States
3 - France
4 - Belgium
5 - Netherlands
6 - Poland
7 - Czechoslovakia
8 - Denmark
9 - Norway
10 - Italy
11 - The Balkans
12 - USSR
13 - Germany

Author: Alexander Stilwell
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 224
Publisher: Amber
Year: 2018

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